Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Screen Casting!

After searching for a good software to use to film my lectures, I have finally settled on screen-cast-o-matic. Its a free software (you can upgrade to the Pro for $12 a year). It is exactly what I was looking for it allows up to 15 minutes of time per screen cast for the free version, and its very easy to use. You sign up, click "record" and a box opens on your computer screen. From there anything you open within the box shows up on the screen cast. I wanted to try a sample screen cast and I have a parent blog for my classroom so I decided to make an explanatory video about how our flipped history class would work. This is only my first foray, I'm going to need more practice
before putting my actual lectures up.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Woah there..slow down!

I've been working hard the last few days to organize and write out instructions for each project students will complete during the course of the unit (1 per week). I have decided to make an "Informational Binder" for my classroom. The binder will be divided into the following:

Tab 1: Research on Flipped Classrooms
Tab 2: Overview and Grading
Tab 3: Project descriptions and Rubrics
Tab 4: Copy of Interactive Notebook
Tab 5: Paper copies of Quizzes and Tests
Tab 6: Additional info

My primary motive in creating the binder was to keep visitors to my classroom informed of what we're doing, but also to make my communication with the SPED teachers in my room easier. I teach on a team, and our team currently has two SPED inclusion programs, additionally we have some ELL students. I wanted a central source of information where teachers and paraprofessional's in my room could access all of the information whenever they need it.

Three additional thoughts occurred to me about "flipping" my class:

1. It will make better use of my "co-taught" classes. As mentioned I have two SPED programs on my team. In an idealistic world these classes are co-taught between the SPED teacher and myself, with additional classes having a paraprofessional assisting. Due to the current structure of the traditional classroom this almost never happens, yet it has always been a hope of mine. I think this set up will make co-teaching a natural and daily occurrence since neither of us will be the "central source" of information. Rather all students can access either of us during the course of class. I think it will make better use of the strengths and knowledge that the SPED teachers bring to my room, and allow them to share that with my regular ed students in addition to their own.

2. This is lofty and far too forward thinking since I don't even know if this whole "flipping" concept will even work, but I think flipping would allow me to present different "courses" within the same room. Its not something I will do this year, but maybe in the future if it works. For example, if a student takes a US history class in college (and some high schools) their class is presented using the teacher's "lens." In other words some teachers may present the Revolutionary War from an economic point of view, or from a women's history point of view, or a military history point of view. Since the content in a flipped classroom is being delivered via screen cast to students, in theory you could record the material using these different lenses and essentially allow students to chose which "course" they want to take, following the video lectures for that course. The possibilities of individualizing learning with this model are fantastic, I'm excited to explore them.

3. Although for this Unit all students will be listening to the same video lectures, in the future (again if this whole thing works) I think I will make various "levels" of videos and allow students to follow that lecture path, even further differentiating for them.

I think the one thing I need to remind myself of here is that this may not work. I am wary of becoming so consumed with this project that I push it to succeed when maybe it won't. What can I say? I'm excited. I do need to remind myself once in a while though to slow down, lest I get too ahead of myself. I wonder if it is better to do a "full flip" as I am or if others have had more success just doing "partial flips"? I'm definitely curious to see how it will go.

I found this great picture at (thanks for the inspiration)! I think it really sums up the flipped class:

As a final thought, I just realized that if each student does 1 project per week for 7 weeks I'm going to have roughly 700 projects in my room...good thing I have a big closet I guess!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Plan Phase 1

Over the last two days I've really tried to figure out the answers to the questions in my last post. To say I've been consumed by this project would be an understatement. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about my classroom. I genuinely feel that if this experiment doesn't renew my students interest in their education, it definitely has renewed mine.

I decided that before I went through any past lectures to record, or even created in Interactive Notebook, I should set up my grading scale, and the basic other words realistically figure out how it would work.

After going through all of the notes and deciding which information was important I finally came up with the following plan:

Flipped Class Set Up

“Flipped” Class Unit Overview and Materials:

Greece is a 20 lecture Unit broken down into 4 sections.

Students will watch watch 2-3 lectures per week for homework. During the lecture they will fill out the corresponding pages in their “Interactive Notebook.” Finally they will take a quiz after each lecture.

When they have completed the quizzes for each lecture at 80% or better they may sit for the exam. An 80% or better will be considered “Mastery.” Students may retake the exam as many times as they wish, however only twice may be during school hours (once during class, once during SSR).

Students will be graded based on the number of units they master.

4 units= A
3 units = B
2 units = C
1 unit = D

Mastery of Units counts for 60% of their overall grade. Grade breakdown as follows:
Mastery of Unit = 60%
Notebook and Discussion Threads = 10%
Weekly Projects = 20%
CE Quizzes/BW = 10%

Lectures to Master
In Class Project Options
Texture Map
Legend of Terrain
Places of Interest
Model of a Ship
Poster on Palace of Knossos
Dark Ages
Trojan War
Perform the Odysee
Read Illiad (Create Soundtrack)
Journal Entries
Trojan War Poster
Compare Disney’s Herculese (Paper)
City States
Class Deabate (All)
Design a Greek Home
Poster on Weaponry
Persuasive Letter
Persian Wars
Delian League
Decline of City States
Research Boston Marathaon
Poster on Trireme
300- Legend vs Movie
Create a Shield
Delian L vs League of Nations
Facebook Project (All)
History of Olympics
Mount Olympus
Perform Midas and Golden Touch
Medical Practices
2 Astronomers
Weight Change
Great Teachers/Academy
Phillip of Macedonia
Alexander the Great
End of Empire
Bucephalus report
History of Alexandria
Battle of Gaugamela
Investigate PW

Wrap Up
Legacy of Greece Unit Project

How weekly Projects work:

Students will submit which project they want to do by Thursday of the prior week. Friday they will receive their placement for the week (weekend to get materials).

Monday they receive assignments and any in-class materials. Students will be seated with other students working on similar projects or at a similar place.

There may be multi-week projects offered for students quickly mastering the material.

Interactive Notebook:

To be filled in along with lectures.
Spot Checked each Friday
Checked in Full when student completes Section

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hashing out Realities

I have to start off by saying that I think I was up until about 5am. Every time I fell asleep I would think of another idea and need to get up to write it down. I haven't been excited about my classroom in this way in a long time...maybe flipping will renew my energy as well as the kids?

After posting yesterday I decided that if this project was going to succeed I would need to gain the support of my administration. Since I would be changing my entire class structure, I knew that parents would probably wonder about the entire structure of a class changing. I also knew that it may appear as though I'm not "teaching" to someone just walking by my class. I decided to fill my Vice Principal in on my "flip."

I was pleasantly surprised at the response. He was extremely supportive even with the understanding that this experiment could ultimately fail. He also helped me think through some of my concerns and alleviated some of them. I am tentatively setting a start date for my Unit on Ancient Greece (the first "flipped" unit) for February 1st giving me approximately two weeks to prep my materials. Too much stuff, not enough time? Probably...but if I'm going to be up until 5am because I'm too excited about this to sleep- I may as well give it the ol'college try.

Some crazy 5am ideas:

Instead of having the kids simply take "2 column notes" (our district standard) I would create an "Interactive Notebook" for students to use as they work their way through the lecture. I found this site to be very inspirational. I would like to find more "how to's" from the teacher end.

At the end of each section (my unit on Greece has 4 sections) there would be a day where students would have the option to come in and sit at a table of their choice
-Table 1: I want the notes re-clarified to me in person.
Table 2: I understand the notes but I'd like to read for content.
Table 3: I'd like to demonstrate mastery through writing.
Table 4: I'd like to demonstrate mastery through drawing.

I'm not sure how I would work the tables quite yet.

I also am toying with the idea of having independent and group projects for students to work through for each section and designating certain days group days and certain days independent work days. Will there be enough time for both? I'd like to assign actual novels to some that too ambitious? Will they resent the extra work?

This week I am working on the creation of the Interactive Notebook as I think this will guide my lectures and answer some of those questions.

Has anyone ever combined interactive notebooks and flipping?

Monday, January 9, 2012

The story of how I flipped...

As stated above I'm a 7th grade history teacher. I teach just north of Boston and have a geeky obsession with technology. I'm always looking for ways to shift my classroom and have it be more student centered. One night I had been toying with how to go "paperless" in the classroom. While I was searching, I kept finding links to blogs on "flipping." Aside from real estate I had never heard the term used before and became curious. This was a Friday night.

Cut to Sunday, and I had poured through every webpage, scholarly article and blog I could find about the subject. I became infatuated, my hunger for a student centered classroom was finally being satiated. Flipping! What is it you ask? Well its simple really (in theory...not sure about practice yet). Flipping involves taking the traditional model of teaching (lecturing to kids and then having them go home to complete an assignment that applies that concept) and reversing it. Students would watch lectures and home, and do the application part in class. Over the next few weeks I gathered every piece of related literature that I could find.

Much of the current research and information on the subject focuses on its use in the maths and sciences...could it work for me in history? Well by Sunday night I was convinced and started the process of flipping my class. No waiting until next year, this was going to happen now.

Of course once I stepped back I realized that it couldn't be such an immediate process and so here I am laying the foundation work. I already have my kids complete their homework online via so I don't think having them listen to lectures is a huge stretch. Some questions that have been running through my head...

1. What kind of software should I use..What will work best for me? Should I video tape myself lecturing, or lecture over my current PowerPoints with only voice? What will convert between my Mac at home and my PC at school? What if I look or sound like a total dork?

2. How will kids react to switching halfway through the year? I'm going to ease them in, one or two lectures this unit before fully flipping the that enough prep?

3. How will parents react? Will they think I'm just being lazy...I'm not! I just want more individualized attention time for your students.

4. How will administration react? I am constantly being told that our principal wants to shift away from lecture based classes...but how will it look when I'm walking around my class instead of standing in front of it? Will it seem like I'm lazy having student driven projects?

5. What if the technology doesn't work? I have found many great websites that simply don't work on our servers...what if this turns out to not work either?

6. Finally my biggest concern...What if the kids don't like it? What if they don't listen to the lectures? What if they lose interest? What if I fail to teach them anything? What will I do with all the class time I have now?

These are big concerns I have that I'm planning to address. As I said I already assign online homework so the issues of computer ownership of students has already been resolved for the most part. I am hoping to gain the administration's support on this as I move forward. Its either going to work or it won't right?

Time will tell....